Christmas Bird Count & More: A Privately Guided Sarapiquí Experience in Your Bubble
a Six-day birding Adventure
Eager to get out and bird after a long time hunkered down at home? With the proper precautions, it is possible to have a birding extravaganza in Sarapiquí, Costa Rica and be a part of the long-standing Christmas Bird Count (CBC) tradition there – all within a birding bubble between you and your naturalist guide. This program has it all; private services with a COVID-19 tested naturalist guide/driver, participation in socially distanced Christmas Bird Count Day on Dec 19th, and a full exploration of all the best sites for an amazing 6 day birding adventure. Costa Rica has long been a paradise for birdwatchers. This neotropical country boasts over 920 species—close to 10% of the world’s total bird diversity. In this concise yet comprehensive five-night program, birders will explore the northern province of Heredia, and especially the richly biodiverse canton of Sarapiquí.
Highlights include participating in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on December 19, private birding at La Selva Biological Station, a visit to the home and reserve of wildlife artist and naturalist Cope, birding from your balcony at your home base of Selva Verde Lodge, and enjoying the cool (literally and figuratively) birding opportunities at higher-elevation sites. Habitats range from lowland tropical rainforest to premontane cloud forest.
A key feature of this self-contained birding adventure is that you and your party will have an expert, English-speaking naturalist guide and private transportation at your service throughout your six days. Not only does this allow you to maximize your time, adjust your plans, and bird to your heart’s content, but it also limits any close contact with others.
Your naturalist guide will be tested for COVID-19 within five days of your arrival. Throughout your program, hotels and service providers will adhere to Costa Rica’s protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We also request that you and your fellow travelers receive a negative Covid-19 test 96 hours prior to your departure to Costa Rica. Traveling between October and April allows you to see migratory as well as resident species.
** Due to naturalist guide availability, some parties may have a guide/driver; other parties may have a guide and a driver, i.e. two separate individuals. In the event there is a guide and a driver, both will have COVID-19 tests within five days of the program’s start.
6 days/5 nights (all nights at Selva Verde Lodge)
$1,647 per person, two participants
$1,345 per person, three participants (one room)
$1,604 per person, three participants (two rooms)
$1,252 per person, four participants
- Private English-speaking naturalist and birding guide/driver (or guide + driver) for entire program. This person will remain constant throughout the program and will have a negative COVID-19 test taken within five days of arrival.
- Private vehicle transportation throughout the program. The exclusive use of the transportation allows for flexibility in the daily activities which can be adjusted as needed.
- Breakfast on a daily basis
- Accommodations in a Sarapiquí Room type, entrance fees, and activities listed in itinerary
Rates do not include gratuities, alcoholic beverages, or optional activities.
Package Does not include
- Laundry, lunches and dinners, alcoholic beverages and items of a personal nature
- Travel insurance (See current requirements by Costa Rican government)
Day 1 | Sarapiquí to San José
Arrive into San José. After clearing customs and immigration, meet the naturalist guide who will accompany you throughout your birding adventure. Together you will transfer to your home base for your program, Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve, located approximately two hours from San José. Depending on your flight arrival time, there will be opportunities for birding en route, so be sure to pack your binoculars in your carry-on. Also pending flight arrival time, lunch can be enjoyed en route (at your own cost). Selva Verde is situated in the Caribbean lowlands at elevations of 180 to 220 feet. Founded by the Holbrook family in 1985, Selva Verde is renowned for its commitment to ecological preservation and sustainability. The reserve is home to a large assortment of avian life, including several types of herons, egrets, hawks, falcons, macaws, hummingbirds, flycatchers, warblers, sparrows, and tanagers. Specific species that are often spotted at Selva Verde include the Keel-billed Toucan, Sunbittern, Crimson Tanager, Wood Thrush, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, and Grey-necked Wood-Rail. Selva Verde is also home to the endangered Great Green Macaw, which feeds on the giant fruiting almond trees in the rainforest. After settling in at the lodge and refreshing yourself, join your naturalist guide for a brief orientation to your program and a briefing for the next day’s activities. This evening, dinner will be on own.
Day 2 | Sarapiquí | Selva Verde Lodge (B)
Depart at dawn for early morning birding in the tropical wet forests of the world-famous Organization for Tropical Studies La Selva Biological Station. Upon arrival at La Selva, you will bird around the grounds surrounding the facilities and road. Enjoy breakfast at the station, followed by a private birding walk guided by one of La Selva’s on-site naturalist guides. La Selva consists of nearly 4,000 acres of land, more than half of which is virgin forest. The area averages over 13 feet of rainfall each year, making it a prime spot to observe water birds. Over half of Costa Rica's recorded bird species have been spotted at La Selva, including the Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Red-capped Manakin, Great Antshrike, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Striped Cuckoo, Slaty Spinetail, Yellow-tailed Oriole, and Rufous-tailed Jacamar. After your morning birding at La Selva, enjoy lunch at your own expense at Selva Verde Lodge or at another restaurant in the region. This afternoon, you will be at leisure to enjoy any number of optional activities such as additional birding at the lodge or in the region, a delicious sustainable chocolate tour, or just relaxing around the pool at Selva Verde. There are many activities that your guide can suggest. For those interested, there are rural tourism activities available with a local non-profit called the Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center such as cooking classes, visiting a local farm, or dance classes. These activities help ensure that local people can enter the tourism economy, an important part of sustainability for Sarapiquí. This evening, review your checklist with your guide followed by dinner on own.
Day 3 | Sarapiquí | Selva Verde Lodge (B)
This morning after a cold breakfast (or boxed breakfast) at Selva Verde, depart very early and head to Braulio Carrillo National Park, about 45 minutes’ drive south of Selva Verde. Straddling the eastern ridge of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range, Braulio Carrillo covers 118,000 acres of mostly virgin rainforest, making it the second largest national park in Costa Rica. Bird along the way, and upon arrival at the Quebrada Gonzalez (Gonzalez Creek) entrance, begin your hike. After your morning birding experience, take a 20-minute drive toward Guápiles to the home and private reserve of Costa Rican naturalist and wildlife artist José Alberto Pérez, also known as Cope. Cope’s property is designed to maximize opportunities for birding and photography. His ponds attract aquatic species, and the property also features blinds for bird photography. Cope’s incredibly fine-tuned knowledge of bird behavior and the local habitat, including his neighbor’s reserves, provides unique access to some wonderful species. Lunch today can either be arranged at Cope’s home or at a local restaurant in the region. After your visit, head back to Selva Verde for rest and relaxation. Dinner will either be at Selva Verde Lodge or at a nearby restaurant.
Day 4 | Sarapiquí | Selva Verde Lodge (B)
This morning, depart Selva Verde at daybreak after a cold breakfast or with a boxed breakfast and drive about 40 minutes west. You will begin ascending into the folds of Poás Volcano into an area known as La Virgen del Socorro, a middle-elevation habitat that is both accessible from the road and that abuts Braulio Carrillo National Park. Interesting sightings at this location include Tufted Flycatchers, Rufous-browed Tyrannulets, tanagers, and euphonias. You will also have a good chance of seeing some interesting raptors. After birding at El Socorro, head toward the “soda” restaurant in Cinchona. This small, roadside café has a balcony that offers a stunning view of the valley and a giant waterfall on the other side of the valley. An impressive array of hummingbirds can be seen here at the feeders. Also, it offers delicious hot chocolate, coffee, and other treats. After your visit here, continue up the mountain another 45 minutes to an even higher elevation of roughly 3,000 feet, to an area known as Bajos del Toro. Here you will bird in actual cloud forest on the trails of El Silencio Rainforest Reserve. After lunch (at your own expense) at the Catarata del Toro Restaurant, head back to your home base for your last evening at Selva Verde Lodge to review your checklist and prepared for tomorrow’s Christmas Bird Count. Dinner will be on own at Selva Verde or at a local restaurant.
Day 5 | Sarapiquí | Selva Verde Lodge (B)
This morning, we will embark on the Christmas Bird Count together with a team of naturalists from La Selva and other nearby reserves. The CBC in Sarapiqui has quite a long history in our region; started and continuously led by La Selva Research Station, it has been ongoing since 1985. It works by having various teams that cover the region and afterwards, the larger group convenes to do one combined list. Team Selva Verde will be birding on the Lodge grounds and as well as neighboring areas. This team will consist of your own private guide that will be with you throughout your journey and your party of travelers. Afterwards, return to the lodge to review your checklist together with the larger group from the CBC. To gain a feel for how this has worked in years past, click here for the CBC results from 2017. It is likely this will be done virtually. Your guide will also then prepare you for another exciting day of birding in Sarapiquí tomorrow.
Day 6 | Sarapiquí to San José
This morning bid farewell to Selva Verde Lodge and Sarapiquí. Your guide will take you to the international airport for your departure.
(B) = Breakfast is included
Selva Verde Lodge as Home base
Visit the acclaimed private 500 acre rainforest reserve in the Sarapiquí Region, enjoying the lush, wildlife filled grounds on the banks of the Sarapiquí River. Selva Verde is home to howler monkeys, iguanas, poison dart frogs, tree frogs, 300 species of birds including toucans, great green macaws, and hummingbirds, 330 species of trees, and many other species of amphibians, reptiles, and plants. Enjoy guided hikes in the rainforest, white water rafting, and exploring the grounds and river. Relax in a hammock, swim in the pool, and relish the comforts and services provided by Selva Verde’s wonderful staff. Prepare to be amazed by the rainforest and its inhabitants.